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THE WHISKEY INSURRECTION.
Democracy, pass from power with the administration of James
The second Congress was greatly distracted by dissensions. The contending parties were respectively inspired by Hamilton and Jefferson. Hamilton and his measures were the object of attack. The victory remained with Hamilton during this Congress, not so much in the new measures which he proposed, as in defeating the schemes which were devised to overthrow him.
An unsuccessful effort was made in this Congress to regulate commerce upon the basis of discriminating in duties upon imports according to the commercial advantages extended to us, or withheld from us, by foreign nations. Manifestly such a system was contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. But the European powers were involved in the war which the French Revolution provoked. Our sympathies were with the French, but our mercantile and commercial interests were largely dependent upon and controlled by British capital; and although bills for the purpose passed the House, they were rejected by the Senate. The charge was made that British influence was more powerful than American. Such a charge easily won belief among those who were controlled by their sympathies or prejudices. It was partly true. But it was also true that we had more to gain by preserving our established business relations with English traders, than by severing them and trying to establish new relations with a government and people so thoroughly unstable and demoralized as were the French in the early years of their revolutionary paroxysms.
American shipping was encouraged by a discount of ten per centum of the duties upon the goods imported by it, and by a tax rate which discriminated in its favor; but the system of discriminatory duties, in which imports from friendly foreign nations should be favored, bas never been adopted by general law, and not at all, except in a few unimportant instances, by treaty regulations.
The important question of the ability of the government to enforce an odious excise law was now challenged but successfully answered.
In 1791, a tax was imposed by Congress upon whiskey distilled in the United States. “Excise” was an unpleasant word to those whose memories went back to ante-revolution days. But the assumption of the state debts made it necessary to have recourse to this source of taxation. In Western Pennsylvania, where whiskey was manufactured, the people resolved to resist the collection of the tax. A tax collector
. was tarred and feathered and robbed of his horse. Similar acts of violence were practised upon other officers. Whoever attempted to support the officers in the collection of the tax exposed his life and property to danger. The administration did not feel strong enough at first to attempt by force the collection of the excise. Congress passed an act providing for calling out the militia, at the same time reducing the tax. But the amended law was no more favorably received than the original. The power of the United States to lay the tax, much more to collect it, was openly denied. The tax was characterized as a national halter upon the neck of the states. The whiskey patriots opened correspondence with malcontents throughout the Union. It is not to be doubted that the malcontents were numerous.
Jefferson sympathized with the rebels, partly because he thought their complaints were just, and partly because he could rejoice in the defeat of Hamilton. Hamilton wanted the revenue which the excise would yield ; he wanted to seize this valuable field of revenue before the states should occupy it. Now that the collection was opposed, and leading AntiFederalists sympathized with the rebels, he advised the President to call out 15,000 militia, and the President issued the call. Hamilton had great fear that the militia would not respond to the call, but they did come forth, they did obey, and the crisis was safely passed. The militia of Pennsylvania turned out largely through the influence of the governor of that state, who overcame their disaffection more by his persuasive oratory than by his authority. The suppression of this insurrection was stigmatized as the triumph of federal despotism. If, as was feared, the troops had refused to obey orders, it is probable the government would have fallen into such contempt that its dissolution could not have been
GENERAL WAYNE'S VICTORY.
ker displeasant volution E neces esterti
averted. But fortunately the national authority was obeyed, and the apparent strength of the national power compelled respect.
General Wayne's victory over the northwestern Indians, whose hostility it was believed had been stimulated by British influence, was a national triumph in which all parties could rejoice. It was won in 1794, and was followed by a treaty of peace, which was long observed.
THE PASSAGE OF THE NATION THROUGH PERILS.
TROUBLES with FRANCE AND ENGLAND. – ALIEN AND SEDITION Laws. — VIRGINIA AND KENTUCKY RESOLUTIONS. — DOWNFALL OF THE FEDERAL PARTY. - JEFFERSONIAN ERA OF STRICT ConstRUC
FEARS OF MONARCHY. OF DISSOLUTION. FRENCH AND English OUTRAGES. - WAR WITH ENGLAND. —- PEACE. - HARTFORD CONVENTION. - ERA OF Good FEELING. - INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS. — MONROE DOCTRINE.
WASHINGTON retained the confidence of his countrymen and was unanimously reëlected. For the twenty-two years commencing with his second administration, and closing with the peace of 1815, our country was kept in turmoil by England and France. Sometimes war threatened us with England and sometimes with France, and it was a happy season when we were not in trouble with both at the same time. We tried hard to preserve friendly relations with both and to avoid giving offence to either; but in their efforts to destroy each other they were too eager and too jealous to be just. We would have been content with a very moderate share of fair treatment, and no doubt if we had been in a condition to do it, we would have declared war against both. Our own government seemed to be growing in strength; Hamilton's organizations and measures were operating well. But in our foreign relations we were obliged to take counsel of our weakness. The nation staggered along amidst perils foreign and domestic until 1815, when suddenly peace with England dispelled all dangers ; the “ era of good feeling "succeeded, and our people vied with each other in devotion to the Union.
Our sympathies were naturally with the French. In our struggle with Great Britain, the French monarchy had sent us troops, lent us money, and made our cause its own. The help was timely and important; it was sorely needed. True, it
TROUBLES WITH ENGLAND AND FRANCE.
was the French monarchy and not the republic that helped us ; a monarchy which utterly repudiated both in theory and practice the idea that the people bore any relation to government, except as subjects, bound to implicit obedience. True it was that the motive in lending us aid was to injure England by depriving her of her American colonies, colonies which France once had hoped to call her own. But whatever the motive, the United States reaped the benefit, and the gratitude of our people was great. Our zeal and devotion were the greater because now, after centuries of appalling oppression, the French so boldly, and apparently so successfully, followed our example in striking for their liberties. When they confirmed their republic by executing their king, we could not quite approve the means, but we were ready to pardon much to the spirit of liberty.
War was declared between England and France in 1793. France appealed to us for such help as we could give. Hating England and loving France, bating despotism and loving freedom, our hearts were already with the latter. Moreover, during our Revolution, in the very crisis of our peril, we had made a treaty with the king of France, in which each power had agreed to help the other in her war against her enemy. This treaty gave privileges to France and denied them to England, and if we should adhere to it we would become the ally of France and the enemy of England. Washington pondered long over the situation; it was critical. Why should we, in our feeble condition, when we had just achieved a favorable start upon our national career, endanger all by our sentimental interference in European affairs ? Hamilton studied the treaty and found that its language described it to be a “ defensive alliance” between us and France. His quick mind clearly distinguished between a defensive alliance and an aggressive one. Although France had at first taken up arms to repel aggression and invasion, she now entered upon aggressive war, and declared it to be her purpose to overthrow monarchies, and carry the blessings of freedom to the nations of the earth. Washington adopted the distinction suggested by Hamilton, and issued a proclamation of neutrality, to the disgust of Jefferson, who affected to despise